Back to School Gluten Free: Educating Staff
Going back to school gluten free requires preparation that starts with educating the staff so that they can be successful and your child can focus on getting an excellent education and making lasting friendships.
It’s hard to believe that the summer is almost over and back to school season is upon us! Time sure flies when you’re having fun. As the summer winds down, parents remember to buy school clothes, classroom supplies, lunchboxes, back packs, etc. However, if your child has celiac disease and is going back to school gluten free, there’s additional preparation that I recommend doing and it starts with educating the school staff.
I’ll be writing a series of blog posts about being gluten free at school, and in this first one I discuss my best tips for making sure the school is well educated.
1. Meet with the teachers and key school staff in advance and educate them.
I remember how little I knew about celiac disease when my daughter was first diagnosed at two years old and always keep in mind that it’s likely that others who don’t live with it on a daily basis are unfamiliar. Therefore, I consider it my job as an active parent to educate the staff so that they can be prepared. This will make life easier for everyone and help keep my daughter safe at school so that she can focus on learning and making lasting friendships.
2. Write A Letter
While your biggest concern is naturally the well being of your own child or children, the school has hundreds of students and a lot of work to do to prepare for the school year ahead. Keeping that in mind when preparing to go back to school gluten free, I recommend bringing handouts to your meetings with the school nurse, teachers, and cafeteria manager so that they have something to refer back to.
The first handout should be a written letter that explains:
- what is celiac disease
- your child’s need to be gluten free
- what happens when your child ingests gluten (their most common symptoms as everyone’s different and there are more than 200 symptoms associated with celiac disease)
- ways to reduce gluten ingestion – not sharing others foods, hand washing, wiping tables down post snack and art projects, etc.
- a big thank you to let them know how much you appreciate their help
Download a sample letter template I created that can be updated with your child’s information. Please note that this type of letter has worked well for us, but every child and school is different so please update it with whatever you feel the letter needs to say.
3. Provide Celiac Disease Handouts
I also recommend giving the staff literature on celiac disease from reputable sources like the Celiac Disease Foundation and Beyond Celiac. Celiac disease does not usually require immediate medical attention or cause anaphylaxis, but as we know repeat gluten exposure can lead to other autoimmune diseases, diabetes and intestinal cancers so protecting our children as best as we can is paramount. I don’t want the school staff to have any doubt that what I’m telling them needs to be taken seriously, so I use these resources as back up for credibility purposes.
Download the celiac disease handouts that I use most often.
4. Establish an open communication policy.
I want to be respectful of the teacher’s time and always ask what method of correspondence they prefer as some like emailing, and others prefer talking in person. Then, I give them all of my contact information and my husband’s and let them know that we are available any time they have a question or concern. I want them to know that we are here to help them, and I also ask that they try to give us a couple of days notice when we need to bring in a snack for a special celebration or gluten free art supplies.
I hope this has helped give you some resources and ideas to help your family prepare for school. In my next Back to School Gluten Free blog, I’ll be discussing ways to help your teacher be successful. So, stay tuned!